The New Yorker's Ken Auletta has a masterful piece ("Non-Stop News") on the Obama Administration's communications efforts and the changing nature of media in this week's issue. Under guidance from Obama's precocious Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, we are given a picture of a Presidency that is ultra-aware, deliberate and 'on message', sensitive, reactive and oftentimes political, in a media environment that has been put into hyperdrive by technology - which has at once increased competition for content and challenged previous revenue structure - as well as everchanging consumption habits.
There are many lessons for both firms as well as journalists that we may take away from the results Obama and his press team's initiatives have seen in this new epoch:
- Transparency may give you the benefit of the doubt, but certainly won't let you fully control the story
- New media is essential to engage, but thinking it will replace the press and their "preoccupation with conflict" is naive, as well as intimating ambitions of something much more severe
- Reactivity sets a mold that is hard to break.
- PR strategy is paramount in an era where 'the story' can shift at any moment
- "We're all wire-service reporters now" - NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd.
- Being proactive and picking your battles still matters, no matter how short the attention span and story cylce seems to favor variety - be it legislation or a company's product offerings.
With recent landmark setbacks to his party, it'll be interesting to see where history attributes blame for poor democratic performance in the polls, the oft-cited unemployment rate or the hyper-paced news cycle, increasingly incapable of digestion, only constant conflict. Additionally, the power balance in the Senate will no doubt create many more challenges for Obama's PR program, ones that won't be so easily solved with a beer in the garden.
We at Cognito constantly assess the developing media landscape in the financial services space and counsel clients on how to best articulate, further industry discussions and manage reputation under these evolving parameters. The capital markets naturally have a longer running relationship with an audience known for instantaneous reaction to events and data, though even that is increasing with yet-to-be-seen consequences due to technology and structural shifts in the market. And while on the topic of the capital markets (the one piece of legislation Auletta avoids is Financial Regulatory Reform actually), it is interesting to note other prominent figures who have found themselves victimto today's rapid fire news cycle with varying degrees of success and reactivity vs proactivity in approach.